Reconstruction of ice-sheet changes in the Antarctic Peninsula since the Last Glacial Maximum

Colm O. Cofaigh, Bethan J. Davies, Stephen J. Livingstone, James A. Smith, Joanne S. Johnson, Emma P. Hocking, Dominic A. Hodgson, John B. Anderson, Michael J. Bentley, Miquel Canals, Eugene Domack, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Jeffrey Evans, Neil F. Glasser, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Robert D. Larter, Stephen J. Roberts, Alexander R. Simms

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This paper compiles and reviews marine and terrestrial data constraining the dimensions and configuration of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet (APIS) from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) through deglaciation to the present day. These data are used to reconstruct grounding-line retreat in 5 ka time-steps from 25 ka BP to present. Glacial landforms and subglacial tills on the eastern and western Antarctic Peninsula (AP) shelf indicate that the APIS was grounded to the outer shelf/shelf edge at the LGM and contained a series of fast-flowing ice streams that drained along cross-shelf bathymetric troughs. The ice sheet was grounded at the shelf edge until similar to 20 cal ka BP. Chronological control on retreat is provided by radiocarbon dates on glacimarine sediments from the shelf troughs and on lacustrine and terrestrial organic remains, as well as cosmogenic nuclide dates on erratics and ice moulded bedrock. Retreat in the east was underway by about 18 cal ka BP. The earliest dates on recession in the west are from Bransfield Basin where recession was underway by 17.5 cal ka BP. Ice streams were active during deglaciation at least until the ice sheet had pulled back to the mid-shelf. The timing of initial retreat decreased progressively southwards along the western AP shelf; the large ice stream in Marguerite Trough may have remained grounded at the shelf edge until about 14 cal ka BP, although terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide ages indicate that thinning had commenced by 18 ka BP. Between 15 and 10 cal ka BP the APIS underwent significant recession along the western AP margin, although retreat between individual troughs was asynchronous. Ice in Marguerite Trough may have still been grounded on the mid-shelf at 10 cal ka BP. In the Larsen-A region the transition from grounded to floating ice was established by 10.7-10.6 cal ka BP. The APIS had retreated towards its present configuration in the western AP by the mid-Holocene but on the eastern peninsula may have approached its present configuration several thousand years earlier, by the start of the Holocene. Mid to late-Holocene retreat was diachronous with stillstands, re-advances and changes in ice-shelf configuration being recorded in most places. Subglacial topography exerted a major control on grounding-line retreat with grounding-zone wedges, and thus by inference slow-downs or stillstands in the retreat of the grounding line, occurring in some cases on reverse bed slopes. (C) 2014 Durham University. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-110
Number of pages24
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date07 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2014


  • Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet
  • Last Glacial Maximum
  • Deglaciation
  • Antarctica
  • Glacial geology


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